Lisbon

Centuries of reinvention and restoration pile on top of one another in Portugal’s dazzling, sun-blessed capital.

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Here, time-worn trams trundle through medieval streets and the scent of freshly baked custard tarts permeates the air. Modern Portugal has emerged in this historic city, too, offering nightlife, shopping and business to rival Europe’s major capitals.

Arriving at Lisbon Portela Airport

Your journey into Lisbon’s history begins at Portugal’s busiest airport, a key connection point to Southern Europe. Getting from the airport to the city is easy, with several different bus operators running services. Taxis to the centre take around 20 minutes and cost from €15, but do agree on your fare before departing. Metro trains also link the airport to Saldanha City, one of the financial centres of Lisbon.

You can pick up a variety of tickets from the airport, including inclusive cards that cover numerous forms of transport for the duration of your stay.

For anyone wanting to travel outside of the city, it’s best to book car hire in advance.

Getting active

You’re likely to work up a sweat simply walking around Lisbon, climbing steep, angled streets to reach vantage points such as the castle. The city isn’t packed with sports facilities (although football is revered here), but you’ll stay fit just by sightseeing.

To experience the sporty side of Lisbon, head to the surrounding coastline for adventurous options that keep even the most ardent fitness fanatic happy. Guincho Beach a half-hour drive from Lisbon is one of the prime water sports destinations in the country, with surfing, water-skiing and windsurfing on beaches that are sunny almost year-round.

A similar distance from the city, Cascais is the most popular destination for visitors wanting to try out surfing; the waters tend to be calmer than on the western side of Sintra-Cascais Natural Park, making it more suitable for beginners.

Or even closer than Guincho or Cascais, the small town of Carcavelos has a vast sandy beach with dependable surf plus space for hundreds of visitors.

Sailing is also available on the waterfront of the Tagus in central Lisbon. Simply stroll down to one of the marinas to see the boats that head out regularly into the estuary.

Excursions

Lisbon is perfectly placed for visiting an array of smaller towns in the Portuguese countryside and coastline. Drive for less than an hour and you can find high-altitude communities and laid-back coastal destinations that will add another dimension to your trip to Lisbon. Here are three especially scenic options.

Sintra

This stunning town is famed for its hilltop National Palace and Moorish castle. Head here for architectural marvels as well as to explore the surrounding Sintra-Cascais Natural Park.

Cascais

At the southern end of Sintra-Cascais Natural Park you’ll find this stylish town with its golden sands and modern hotels. There are plenty of sights, including an impressive fort, but it’s equally tempting to spend the day on the beach.

Mafra

This town isn’t as well-known as Cascais or Sintra but features one of Portugal’s most awe-inspiring buildings. Mafra Palace, with its vast yellow façade and symmetrical white bell-towers, is a fabulous sight to behold; venture inside to explore more than 1,200 rooms.